Category: interesting

blip.fm

Very first thoughts of blip.fm, and therefore not a proper review, and based on first impressions, not research.

blip.fm is interesting but so far for me has proved a little frustrating in understanding how to get the most out of it.

[For reasons not clear to me I have dumped my thoughts as bullet points (which would have worked just as well as sentences, but can sometimes make it more readable).]

  • blip.fm doesn’t seem like a ‘set it going and leave it to play’ website. which I guess is what i’m most interested in.
  • it has been described as a cross between twitter and last.fm, which I agree with.
  • on signing up, it suggests you enter three bands you like, and then adds 30 people (DJs) to your feed.
  • You then see a realtime feed of what your favourite DJs have been listening to, you can then start listening to this list.
  • Though I want to discover new music, many of the songs in the list (from people in my automatically created favorites) were of no interest. However it is easy to skip songs (though, this is just one element of the ‘needs your attention’  I described above).
  • Now i would guess that for most people, creating a list of favorite DJs based on three artists will produce some matches with people who on the whole you don’t share music taste with, and one of the first things they will want to do is refine the list and their preferences…
  • So you’re listening to the music, and skipping the ones you’re not so keen on. How can you refine this list? Well you can remove a DJ you don’t like a song of. But this may be just one bad song from what is generally a good mix of music. So I’m reluctant to this. Plus, to remove a DJ you need to follow a link to their page to remove them…
  • Which leads me to an annoying quirk. Almost anything you do leads to navigating away from the current page and therefore the music stops. You have to constantly remember to right-click links to open a new tab. Very Annoying.
  • Another oddity, one time I tried it, it seems no one from my DJs were currently playing anything (I’m in the UK and I’m guessing most of my regular blippers are on the west coast US or similar). So the first page of ‘what my DJs have recently played’ stayed static (most recently played song first, just like twitter). It was dominated by two people and most of the songs were crap. lots of skipping meant i soon got to the end of the list. but instead of moving me to page 2, or something like that, it just took me to the top of the list again, to play the same crap as the first time round.
  • You have two options next to each track,: ‘add it to playlist’ and ‘give dj props’. The former, urm, adds it to your playlist. However this does not mean it will show up in the list of tracks played by me (i.e. if anyone is following me as a DJ, or on the homepage ‘all’ feed), it really does just get added to to a playlist page for me, and doesn’t do much. The second option will use one of my ‘props’ credits to this DJ, a basic way of saying ‘hey, i like your stuff’, though not total clear how this meter of popularity differs from the ‘number of followers’ metric which blip.fm seems to promote more (ie in user’s pictures/aviators it shows roughly how many people follow that person’s playlist).
  • However, what i really want is a way to say ‘I like this’ or ‘not for me’ (props are one way of showing you like it, but they are in short supply). basically a thumbs up/ thumbs down. some way for me to tell blip what i like over time. based on this it could probably build up a much better list of DJs for me to follow.
  • This is what I don’t get, I’m guessing people will be hearing songs for a first time and want a way to record if they like it or not. For example, I mentioned earlier that removing DJs was difficult (or at least I am reluctant to do) because you are making the decision based on what that person has just played, rather than whether they have played good/bad stuff over time. Flagging songs good/bad would then allow the site to show the amount of good/bad points you have given each DJ over time, so you can either manually see those who you have on the whole given thumbs down to the songs they have played, or even it can suggest which DJs should be removed (based on thumbs down), and perhaps some who should be added (based on the artists you are giving a thumbs up, and those DJs with the best match).
  • Ok, so that’s the listening ‘read-only’ side, but what about the other side of the coin, your own stream of tracks which others can listen to?
  • At the top of the page is a text box to enter the answer ‘what are you listening to?’.
  • At first this seems like an odd question, duh, what ever is blip.fm is playing for me!
  • However, if you ignore this and enter what you WANT to listen to, enter an artist say and then select the track. It will then prompt for a twitter-like short message which will be displayed with the track. If available it will then play the track.
  • This is cool, and a good way to hear a specific song you have in your head.
  • But it stops whatever you are listening to originally.
  • In fact I can’t see how a balance of listening to the songs of others while adding in some of your own could work, as each time you add your own it will stop the playlist (you can avoid this with a keyboard combination), it would be good if it just played it once the current song is finished.
  • Anyone who follows me will only see those i have manually typed in myself. This seems almost a waste, I may listen to several hours of music, and add to my playlist several songs i love which others have played on blip, but these will not show up in my stream, so while someone following me may well love the ones I have flagged, they will not hear them unless i then manually search for the very song I am listening to on blip fm and blip it myself (which will then play it again for me, which I don’t want as I’ve just listened to it). Cutting the current song/artist from one part of its display to post in to another, to answer the question (what am I listening to) which it itself knows because it is the very thing playing it to me seems odd. Though as I said at the beginning, I may yet to master how to use blip.

Coming back to what I said at the start, it requires your time, to skip crap tracks, to add your own (but only when a track is just finishing – unless it is an aforementioned crap one – to avoid it being cut off), to keep an eye on who is playing good stuff (so you don’t remove them) and who is playing rubbish (so you can remove them if they keep it up!), to move to the next page of music once you have played the first page in your list, etc. This need for constant attention wouldn’t be so bad if it lead to some long term good, i.e. it helped build up a preference profile of what I liked (eg I don’t mind spending time adding ratings to my itunes library because I can use those ratings in the future)

While removing DJs is possible once you have identified whose music tastes don’t match yours, adding DJs is not so simple, as you are basically starting from scratch. What songs you’ve played, the songs you have added to playlists, the DJs you having given props to, all mean nothing, you just type in two or more artists names and it will suggest some DJs from what appears to be just those which include those artists.

This seems simplistic, and wouldn’t be so bad if there was an easy way to gradually weed them out or perhaps rank DJs so their music took a lower priority. The latter suggestion would alter the whole model, at the moment it works like twitter, you either follow someone or not, by only half following someone, or by giving their music a lower priority, say for example, if their songs only show up in your feed if other DJs you prefer are not playing much, or perhaps only the songs they play which have a good match to the sort of music you like.

I’ve been quite negative hear, look it is a social music listening site, and is worth playing with, but what I wanted to get down was why it doesn’t seem to fully work for me. Maybe you need people you know on it, so you can follow them and stike up more banter?

[here is a gap in time]

Amazingly I played about six songs myself (and therefore they, and they only appeared in my stream that anyone else can follow), and I now have four followers. This instantly gave me a pathetic ego boost and suddenly I went from trying to make blio work as something to listen to, to full blown how many listeners can I get. This involves playing a lot of cool music and doing nothing else, and carefully timing it so the next one starts as the previous ends (otherwise annoyingly it plays the song before last again). Now this is a different use, but now I’m enjoying myself. I’m listening to no one else’s music (and so not discovering anything new) and not getting anything else done. but my god my music taste is damn good! current listening to the long version of I Am The Resurrection – The Stone Roses. poptastic.

UPDATE Feb 2009

The above was written just after I started using the service. I’m not a heavy user of blip, but do use it every few days. The ‘interactive’ (ie, it needs your attention) is still true. But this is very much like twitter. You get the most out of it when you are blipping music and listening and responding to other’s music.

You do get familiar faces and people you respond to, especially if you are a frequent user. However this ‘conversation’ element is not – for me – as great as Twitter, where you are following people you know or have similar interests, with blip you are following because you like their music, so conversation doesn’t extend much more than this (though blip comments such as ‘listening to this as it reminds me of Berlin’, for example, might get people discussion from those who have been there).

Blip works best when, like twitter, you are working away on your computer and are happy to switch back to blip every so often to play something new / slip a song your not keen on / reply to someone etc. I originally pondered on the idea of blipping a number of tracks at once so you can line tracks up to play in a row, rather than constantly going back as each song ends to find the next one. I’m now less sure on such an idea, the point of blip is its real-time qualities, people are playging these songs now, and the comments they leave with each blip are – like twitter – are current, not batched up when they first logged on.

Blip really is the Twitter of music playing, right down to no one really being sure of their business plan. It works. It is social music in a way that last.fm and similar can never be. Good stuff.

to do list software

this is a ‘thinking out loud’ blog post.

For years my to-do list survived as a combination of my email inbox and a bit of A4 paper which i would scribble lists on to and write numbers next to them in the planned order i was going to do them. (which was somewhat laughable)

But things were being missed so it was time to look at different ideas.

Nothing has yet hit the sweet spot. This blog post tries to decide what the sweet spot is and if anything has yet come close.

Ideally: Something that can be accessed anywhere, is real quick to bring up and use, presents information just as I want it, allows me to track progress of the job/task, allows me to pass it to someone else (yes!). Also, ability to track changes, and – if it doesn’t accept email (like RT) have a nice big notes field for paste-ing in the email which started it all off.

So what have I tried:

Meetingmaker

Meetingmaker it pretty good software, and as you might guess, its main function is shared calendars (making meetings). A slightly odd history, it had no software updates for years, then suddenly they released a new version (about 2005) which was a lot nicer to use, with the message that they were now actively finding out what users wanted and developing new versions. Nothing has come since (apart from an update to change light-saving hours for a timezone somewhere).

Anyways, it comes with a to do list function. It has a windows3.1 feel to it, and a big thumbs down is the user interface. Being part of the diary/calendar package, it tends to be the window sitting behind your calendar window, which can be annoying. And it doesn’t remember your settings, so even though each time i open it i set it to not show completed tasks and to show in order of priority, it forgets this. Which is annoying.

Apart from this it does its job well. Title, Category (which are user defined), priority, percentage done and a nice big notes field. It does all the basics (in a ugly and slightly tedious way). What it fails on is the other stuff. When did I create this task, when did i finish it. I want to transfer it to someone else (should be do-able as we all use MM), I want to see a list of items completed this month. What progress have i made? All impossible.

RT

Until recently RT was not an option, it was so amazingly slow. I mean really slow. But now our IT services have upgraded it, and it’s much improved.

RT is a Request Tracker, and as such is not really a to-do list, and its functionality (and lack of) reflects this. A RT install has a series of Queues (e.g. helpdesk, webteam, workstation-support), and each queue has tickets (i.e. jobs/tasks). So, What’s it good at?

  • you or someone else (just by sending an email to a specific address) can easily created a new ticket, with the title being the emails subject line
  • It provides excellent progress tracking, each email you send is tracked, and you can add comments (which can cater for any notes you want to add but don’t want the requester to see).
  • You can add requesters, add owners (people like you who are dealing with this task), and remove them as needed (useful as jobs change in nature and different people required).
  • You can easily transfer to a new ‘queue’, if it belongs to another department
  • It includes ‘time taken’ and percentage done
  • everything is time stamped.

Downsides

  • Interface not great, eg when listing tickets (tasks) you just see the title of each ticket and last time someone updated it. anything more than that requires going in to the full ticket.
  • editing anything (owner, requester, status, flags) requires going in to some sub-screens, which is slow and annoying. They really need AJAX for this (hello flickr, you are amazing).
  • General navigation sucks. big time.
  • Things you think will be built in are not, especially reporting. What have we completed recently? my tickets? my tickets that i haven’t done anything with recently? tickets that need attention? or took a long time to complete? It does give you what is essentially a SQL interface, which is good, but not a quick way to recall saved reports or views, which in many cases is essential.
  • When looking at a ticket it can be very verbose. telling you lots of information you don’t want to know, and the log of activity takes lots of space but still missing out key information. For example, a ticket with just a few emails can easily span many many printed pages, as it shows the quoted text for each email, and has lots of lines showing you that an outbound email was recorded (which actually take up much more than a line as it has its own block), but still fails to show some important things, such as who exactly got that email (important for covering your arse!).
  • It has a concept of ‘fields’ which are associated to queues, you can think of them like categories. You can associate each ticket in a queue to many fields (the names of which you decide). However this is far to slow and requires far too many clicks.
  • People only appreciate the value of entering metadata/information if it is quick to enter and provides useful information in return. RT, like so many applications, does not meet this.

dot.project

I only tried this as my webhost, dreamhost (get good stuff by following that link!), has a one-click install for this open-source web based system.

This is the one I have tried the least, and after quickly logging on to it again, think i should try it again. First of all, when speed is the essence having a piece of software on a server on the west coast of the US, and me on the sunny south coast of the UK does not help (unless the server is google, in which case using it is amazingly fast, I mean amazing). But this small open source project has a lot of potential.

It has the concept of projects, and tasks (and other things, like tickets) associated with that project. But you as a user can see all tasks for you in a nice list, regardless of which project they belong to. In this sense, projects can be treated like categories, if need be. The interface is good. For example, hover over a task and a larger description pops up which the mouse is above it. this is javascript put to good use.

It has a lot of functionality and features and has good support for different users, so if you can get your whole team/colleagues signed up then it could work really well.

A downside, for me, is in the design, currently you need to browse to a project (which I use as categories) and then you can add a task, I would much prefer being able to see my tasks, and from them their be able to add more tasks as they come in (which I often want to do quickly).

Rememberthemilk.com

Rememberthemilk.com has had quite a lot of exposure among web2.0 fans. It has a lovely interface which makes great use or ajax/javascript. It also makes full use of single (no shift/ctl required, good!) keyboard commands, something which I caught on slowly to.

I’ve being trying out rememberthemilk.com for a few days. It works well, and again, brilliant interface, but doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot. Why?

First and foremost, if you select/add a task, and then immediately add/select another, they are both selected. In fact throughout tasks stay selected until you unselect them. Perhaps I am unusual, but i find this annoying.

I add one, give it a priority and some tags (the nearest it comes to categories, but hey, this is web2.0), do the same for another task, and find I’ve updated both.

It, like many of the applications mentioned, make strong use of deadlines and times. Which I don’t really use much (perhaps I should?!). I tend to be much more priority based, rather than hard deadlines. The task info appears on the right of your task list. It does have a number of properties, but these are mainly time/location based. It has a notes tab, and you can add many notes to a task, each – brilliantly – with a timestamp, but these are really designed for notes (it is in a 200px-ish box), so not really great for posting in that important email associated with the task. Plus ‘tags’ really have to cater for anything to do with categories/projects. So no drop down menus to select these by.

I’m not sure if its ‘adding a new task’ function is good or bad. Being ajax, it is quick, click ‘add new task’ type in a title and hit return and you’re done. And its (bank) properties will be shown on the right, but not selected by default (so requires a mouse move/click, or some keyboard command I haven’t learnt yet) Oh and remember that those properties are for the task, AND the one selected previously, unless you remembered to clear it before adding this one (which is quick once you leanr the keyboard shortcut ‘n’)…

…ok so I’ve just played some more to make sure what I was saying is true. I think the key is you need to learn the keyboard shortcuts. Also, oddly for me, even with many select, if you hit s for ‘edit tags’ it will only edit the last selected item. And you can select items, and move the cursor up/down using the keyboard to. It seems it takes a bit of learning, and a bit of getting used to, but could be useful. Again, add contacts, and you can then pass on things as required (though I suspect not everyone would love this interface, something i would have to consider). However one additional limitation is the lack of good progress/percentage complete. Viewing completed items is a little weird too… make sure nothing is selected, and move your mouse to some white space to be able to select ‘9 completed items’ to see them. Apart from the notes (with timestamps), there is little in the way of progress monitoring (I’ve already mentioned lack of percentage complete), and some way to summarise this in the list itself (number of days since last activity, for eg). Would be good.

Summary.

Nothing hits the sweet spot. I really want to-do list, ticket/email tracking and project management in one, with an amazing nice to use, use anywhere interface. Not going to happen. Funny enough, my conclusion after writing most of these is, hmmm, actually I need to investigate further. And that really needs a disclaimer, this is just my random thoughts, I haven’t read the manual or even used them for what they were designed for. I just used them in a way that suits me, and in a way I found intuitive. This means my words are probably of use only to me. Take note!

MM meets my needs in many ways, but the failure to track progress, provide timestamps and allocate to others is a real killer. dot.project needs another look (and perhaps installing on a local sever), and rememberthemilk requires more playing with and learning how to get the most out of it. Finally, I love the fact RT has such a clear record of activity, and as it is used by my peers, an easy way to allocate/pass work to others, across campus, and the need arises. However, it really is a ticket tracking tool and its interface is not perfect (the latter applies to all).

Lifehacker and other reccomendations, many of which I have not tried.

And on a totally different note, if you haven’t already, check out Wine Library TV.

Olympic medals by population

The table below shows number of Olympic gold medals (for the top three countries) as of 18/8/2008. It also shows the number of golds divided by total population (in millions, otherwise the numbers just look silly). It also shows the number of golds divided by the number people participating in the Olympics for that country.

I couldn’t find anywhere on the web details of the number of participants per country. The numbers used below where based on comments made by a TV commentator, and I could only remember the first digit of each! (I hadn’t expected the need to recall it at the time). Needless to say, take these numbers with a bucket of salt.

Country # of Golds Population (millions) Golds per population Number of Olympians Golds per Olympian
China 37 1,321 0.0280 600 0.061
USA 19 304 0.0625 600 0.031
UK 12 60 0.2 312 0.04

Interestingly, China still comes out on top for Golds per participant, even with their high number of Olympiads, congratulations to them (though again, the actual number is between 600-700, not 600 as stated, I shall try and find out the correct number, feel free to correct me in the comments to this post).

The country that comes out best in each column is in bold.

Australia is currently in 4th place with 11 Golds. Australia only has 21 million people. So in ‘Golds per population’ above they would have 0.52 Golds per million people, clearly beating all three above.

As someone who has never really followed the Olympics, I was surprised at how good the UK performance is this year compared to other years (see bottom of page). With the games not over yet, we haven’t done this well since 1920, when we got 15 Golds, and have only got double figures once since then in 2000, we got 1 Gold the time before that (96), and then between 2-5 each time from then back to 1960.

The official Medals list can be found here. The BBC list can be found here. Interestingly I notice some US sites list by total number of medals (as opposed to total of Golds), which happily puts the US first, though the New York Times blog explains that this is more to do with the source of the data than anything else.

The LA Times has written about Golds per captia.

Population figures from Wikipedia, most recent estimates.

Update: SportsReferences.com has the numbers I need as it lists the number of particpants, per country, per year (click on a country for an example). Unfortunately it does not have the 2008 numbers yet, and nor will it do until after the games are over.

Update: see the following site for many more interesting examples

mobile phones, desires, frustrations and musings

I mentioned in my last post that my current phone is a Motorola RAZR2 V8. I got this because of its shape (nice to hold), large screen and large keys. These may not sound like funky features but are actually what are important to me.

I look at the iphone and nokia n95 with envy, the answer to all my problems is in these phones. Why? Which one? Why do I crave these when I do not use the features on my current phone.

What would I use?

  • I like the idea of pain free web on my phone, checking train times, check cd prices on play.com while walking around HMV, reading rss feeds on the train.
  • I like the idea of pain free web without constantly worrying about usage costs, i.e. wireless where available.
  • I liked my old palm pilot. I remember getting a train to Plymouth in December a few years a go (for my sister’s graduation) and wrote all my christmas season’s-greetings cards, palm pilot sat there on the little table as the reliable source of addresses.
  • I’m passionate about everything syncing with everything (another blog post me thinks). I remember in 2001 being frustrated at not being able to sync phone/palm/yahoo/PC (I got close with truesync, just missing the phone). In 2008 I still can’t get this all to work.
  • That includes syncing calendar
  • shopping lists, reminders and e-post-it notes are useful to keep in your pocket, and therefore phone.
  • Cameras and video/sound recorders are great, I was cynical of these until I realised the potential of taking pictures when you least expect it (and don’t have a phone) AND have a cable to move the files off the phone.
  • Media (pictures, videos, audio) would be much more useful if it just sync’d with something else when it had a wireless connection. Something else = PC, or decent online app (a la Google/Yahoo/flickr, NOT some rubbish in-house done-on-the-cheap company app.
  • GPS on a phone sounds cool. I don’t have a car but i see loads of potential (what IS the quickest way to walk from town, where am i, what’s that building/thing i can see, I’m late and need to get to a conference/meeting from this tube stop pronto..)
  • Music/video on a phone is good if it just works, as in Apple works. Putting music on the phone needs to be easy and pleasant, playing it by album, artist, random, not just per song, when phone rings/txt phone reacts in a thought out way, I don’t want to be deafened or forced to answer, or loss where i am in an album, or have to quit a music player.
  • I’m not a gaming person but a few games to while away the odd minute would be nice (god I miss worms), I always thought finding cool games to download would be easy but it has always eluded me.
  • I would use my phone as a read/write device if it has: a large screen, a touch screen for the web and a qwerty keyboard (for note taking, docs, etc).
  • Itemised voicemail messages (iphone) seem like such a brilliant and obvious idea, seeing the dreaded ‘5 voicemail messages waiting’ txt makes me put of listening to them!
  • It needs to act like a mobile thingy gadget, not phone with bits added on.

So what are the current contenders…

iphone

First, the iphone, like the ipod isn’t just a trendy fashion accessory, once the fuss died down a close look shows that is set a new standard.

What’s good about it?

  • Design
  • View voice mail and select which one you want to listen to (this is a brilliant idea, I have a very strange dislike of dialling my voicemail to find out which frustrated soul has been trying to ring me, especially when there are a lot of messages).
  • User interface
  • Internet connectivity.
  • good sync’ing (i think?)

Perhaps the most important aspect was the user interface. Phones have played music for a long time, but always had a bolted on feel. Often stuck away in a sub-menu, and requiring a 3rd party application, and often wasn’t easy to listen to music while doing other things (especially when you just wanted to skip a track, or swap between a phone call and music). I think some techies didn’t get this, especially the slashdot group-think type, by comparing lists of features and specification numbers they would argue that the iphone is nothing special, but they didn’t seem to appreciate that for most of us it can be the small things such as how they are implemented which makes all the difference.

It also got the web right. While Opera Mini Browser is fantastic, and copes with websites well, nothing beats seeing a webpage how you would expect to see it on a PC. The fact that many sites should work better on a phone is not the point (though a good point, a well crafted stylesheet for the small screen size would ensure a design heavy 100px wide page can be rendered nicely on a mobile and just include the essentials).

Iphone cons:

  • no GPS
  • Camera has bad reviews
  • Limited extra apps, and games
  • no proper keboard, all reviews suggest the screen keyboard is fine but ‘takes getting used to’

Nokia n95 / n96 / n82

OK confused. Until recently the N95 was seen as the must have Nokia smartphone, they recently released the N95 8Gb which fixed a lot of the problems with the N95 (eg stability), but now I’m seeing people refer to the N82 as the N95 Successor, and meanwhile seeing that the N96 is on the horizon as well.

The Nokia’s have all you could need feature-wise: loads of apps, good camera, multimedia, GPS and an accelerometer, plus every connection method you could want. However, no touch screen and no Querty keyboard (and small numeric keys) make input a pain. Plus The Nokia’s interface/stability has been critised. It just don’t have a look or brilliant user experience of the iphone, or any phone with a large touch screen. I would be worried after spending money on such a good phone that the limited input options would mena I would not use it as much as I would want (small numeric keys = difficult to take notes / add to-dos, no touch screen mean less than ideal web browsing experience).

Palm

The Nokia N95 and Apple’s iPhone have been compared endlessly, but in my mind another contender is the Palm 750 (and similar models). I like the large touch screen and the keyboard. Running Windows Mobile is good and bad. Good in that it will sync with standard PC software and use familar apps that have wide support (windows media player), bad in that all these apps aren’t as good as the Apple alternatives that of course the iPhone will sync with. At the end of the day, Windows Mobile doesn’t give me the warm fuzzy feeling or feel good factor, but better than crappy phone manufacturer’s software, and does work. Other downsides include the 1.3 megapixel camera (the same as my first camera, not good) and no GPS.

Others

Blackberry have some interesting phones, similar to the Palm above.

T-mobile have a T-mobile branded phone which has a slide out querty keyboard and touch screen.

Conclusion #1

I’m not getting a new phone in the near future so this is all irrelevant.

Conclusion #2

GPS is cool, so is the iphone. What’s key is not just a feature but that is is usable: easy to enter information and view, easy to sync with other systems, automated sync and it needs to feel like part of the device, not just an awkward add on. A cool document editor is no use if you have to use some tiny numeric keys to enter text and the files require manually moving to another device. Wireless seems like another must, paying by the kb to browser the web or download a file when you in sitting next to your wireless broadband is silly.

I’ll watch the Nokia N96 with interest, and reckon a Nokia model with a touch screen (web browsing) or qwerty keyboard (note taking, email) would be a serious contender.

The iphone is another obvious choice, and I like the fact it is Apple and not a MS Mobile based. It’s on screen keyboard, lack of GPS and limited applications at present are my main concerns (again, I’m not a gaming person but a few simple-but-fun games would be nice).

Be interesting to watch how these models are updated, and which new models come out in the next few years.

[this is one of three posts about mobiles (in my head it was going to be one but released I had too much to rant about), see mobiles (naming) and the self obsessed mobiles (and me)]

Dreamhost and nostuff

Well nostuff has been with Dreamhost for a while now, and they are responsible for running the dream. the dream was the ideal of nostuff, which was, ummm, no stuff. They gave me so many goodies that I have ended up with, well, stuff.

For the techies, they give shell access, cron and a powerful web-based control panel and good control over the domain.

Example: I only have one domain associated with my account (i could have more). but I can set up sub-domains easily. Each can be anything you dream of: a redirect, a directory of your main site, something completely separate, have it’s own (unlimited) email addresses (hello@whatever.nostuff.org), have it’s onw google apps etc. Very impressive list of options. The whole setup is very flexible, so if you want to do something unusual with your mail setup or whatever, then you probably can. It’s also the little things, it’s not just that I can setup a WordPress blog with one click, but I can setup unlimited number, at any domain, sub-domain, directory and database I choose, and setup with a good selection of themes and plugins.

This evening I have installed moodle (1 minute), setup words.nostuff.org to point to da blog, setup google apps on nostuff.org (start.nostuff.org, docs.nostuff.org and loads more) and upgraded two blogs to the latest version.

So this is one big advert for dreamhost.

Must find complaints… hmmm, having a web host running servers in West Cost US time when you are in the UK can be a slight pain, and there can be a tiny lag at times (I think). Though my last host was a very simple affair I was never aware of my website being down. Dreamhost have had a few problems leading to downtime, and they seem to take a while to fully resolve it (they do follow up with blog postings explaining why, but of course swear a strange one off occurance caused it and it will never happen again).

But that’s all nickpicking.

All in all, very impressed, and glad I moved my site here.

Now, having written all this (and only after writing all this), I’ve just had the idea of linking to this sign up link and mentioning the sign up code NOSTUFF (using the code should mean YOU get $20 off, think of what you can do with all that cash). Using either means I get a tiny bit of cash off my next payment to Dreamhost, so if this tempts you at all, then hey I am not above whoring. Heck even if you don’t want a hosted domain service, perhaps you’re looking for a new dishwasher, or car insurance or smack, then sign up here, this is what you want. Just enter that promo code and enter you credit card details and do it before thinking about it.

Up and Then Down

Factoid of the day: “Generally, England is over-elevatored”

via ‘Up and Then Down’

Today’s new thing: LRB

Apparently the London Review of Books isn’t a London based magazine which reviews books. I say this not as a joke, oh you cultral ones. I really do think it is justified of me to presume a publication called London Review of Books is actually a review of sodding books. Apparently it is not. Apparently is has some interesting articles.

Upper Peter…

…or Northern Rock. ho ho ho

There has been zillions of stuff in the press of late about our friends Northern Rock.

They had the genius idea of rapidly increasing their mortgage business, and instead of using deposits as (a good part of) the supply of money to pay for the mortgages, they instead borrowed from other banks. Borrowing from other banks is normal, but doing it to such an extent was the thing that made Northern Rock different. They got all their eggs and placed them all in a basket. Only they kept needing more eggs. And one day there was no one to give them more.

Why am I writing this? I have an ISA with Northern Rock. Had it for years, back when they were at the top of the various broadsheet ‘best ISA’ tables week after week. For years their interest rate has been crap. I keep meaning to move. Will do it tomorrow.

I had no intention of moving my money when they ran in to trouble. For one I saw that my money was safe (I have less than the £30,000 barrier, above which you only get a % of your cash back should your bank go bankrupt, in fact close to £30,000 less!) Secondly I saw it as a very short term thing (I was wrong).

But now I am thinking of moving. Why?

  • They sent me a letter recently. To reward me for my loyalty I was to get a better interest rate! Only it lasted only about a month, and was less than 1%. And, it would still be less than most other high street rates.
  • They also sent me a letter to invite me in for a chat to see if there were any extra services they could offer me. I got the impression this was an automated circular – nothing to do with their troubles – coming at the time it did it almost seem amusing: We may be falling apart, but hey, come and move your business to us!
  • Several years a go I moved flat. This involves walking from bank to bank to inform them of change of address. It includes fighting with the member of staff that I don’t want house/contents insurance (no is not good enough) at every bank. But, they were all fairly helpful, adding the address to their system (on a screen which I could see as they typed to correct any mistakes). They could set the exact date and all offered to put ‘holds’ on so that no letters would be sent out between set dates around the move to avoid any letters going to the wrong place too early/late. Nice. All except Northern Rock. When I told them the people behind the counter (it is always empty so you have all the people behind the counter dealing with your reqauest) said gosh, we can do something about that! Oh, but I haven’t moved yet, moving on the 5th. They faces sunk. This was something highly unusal. Eventually they got over the big office diary. They found the right day and wrote carefully that Mr Keene was moving today to ….! No computer. No hold or fancy features, just a diary and pen.
  • Best of all. I was curious how much money I had in the account. I had paid in a small amount for years, plus interest. They have no online facility, and are open limited hours (bless), but I finally got around to going in while it was open with my passbook. The guy was happy to just take my passbook and get the new amount on it. Then he frowned. Ah, the computer says it has so many updates to do to your passbook that it can’t cope and wont do it. I’m going to have to do them by hand, you just haven’ been in for so long. Now, I’m guessing here, but surely it is not that unusual for savers to set up a standing order and do no other activity with the accont for years. They took my passbook (and, to be fair, wrote down my balance on a bit of paper for me). When it came back through the post many days later, some poor sole had to write row after row (I’m guess 60-90) each one a ‘transaction’, even though they were all indentical, the same amount going in on the same day each month (and the odd yearly interest). It was amazing.

Of course the biggest reason to move is that they interest rates are poor. But they are a joke. I want to move somewhere where I can do all this online. Check my balance, move money in and out. Etc.

Nationwide and Egg both offer good interest (and I’m with both, the fewer companies that have my details the better), but Nationwide offer the facility to move an ISA from another company to them, so i will probably go with them.

As for Northern Rock. Bless.

Welsh Bombers : The US knows who you are.

Well they probably do.

Heck admit it, they haven’t got a clue. Instead they just ban random people (and treat them like shit)

Amazon : censor reviews of the high arts

Yesterday I posted a link to the reviews page of Katie Price and Peter Andre‘s A whole new world.

In what can only be proof that Jeff Bezos himself is reading my blog on a daily, no – i correct myself – hourly basis, not a day later all the reviews have been deleted. Of course, the arts have always suffered censorship at the hands of facist governments and evil corporations. It’s something we live with, but with just a touch of pride that such dark work was all down to my own little hands typing away on this here web-experience.

Where was I? ah yes, google cache. My darling google cache. I could only get a few. It seems the ‘show next page of reviews’ link on amazon’s site links to the same URL of the page you are on. So using ‘cache:[URL]’ didn’t work on the rest of the comment pages. But I still got a few. Weirdly, looking at different cache results I got different versions of the first page (3 of them actually).

For the time being, the reviews that Jeff deleted (of course it was him) are just cut n paste in to a WordPress page, will try and do more later.